There’s power in shopping locally

Jeanne Bennett

For example, when you eat at a local restaurant or buy flowers from the local florist, you support those companies and their employees. That restaurant and florist use other local businesses by purchasing their products and services – everything from the telephone system, health and business insurance, copier maintenance, printing, accounting/bookkeeping, heating/cooling maintenance services to tax preparation, legal assistance and IT support. All of those businesses, in turn, generate jobs that are filled, largely, by local residents – you, your family, friends and neighbors.

More than 98 percent of Clark County businesses have fewer than 50 employees. That means the vast majority of companies providing local jobs are small businesses. Typically, small business owners tend to be local residents and more of the money generated by these businesses ends up staying in the community. In 2012, the average wage at a business with fewer than 50 employees was $36,676, as compared to all private sector jobs at $42,974.

In addition to hiring local residents, local business owners support area nonprofit organizations with donations and in-kind contributions of products and services. Nonprofit organizations in Southwest Washington employ more than 11,000 people. And so, that local restaurant meal or floral arrangement you purchased is also supporting the jobs at local nonprofit organizations that care for our most needy and vulnerable citizens. There’s power in shopping locally.

When our dollars are spent locally, it increases the amount of taxes collected that our police, fire and public services need to perform and function. How do they perform and function – employees! What does this mean? Good paying jobs!

Shopping locally contributes to our community’s livability and gives us options, not only in retail, but in the number and types of employment available to all of us. Livability is a factor companies consider when determining whether or not to move to the area. While various agencies and organizations are working to attract new businesses to the county, we all have a role to play in helping the existing businesses be successful so they can maintain existing jobs and, hopefully, add new ones. Of course, we also want more companies to move to Clark County because they bring, you guessed it, jobs!

Shop local is not just about providing a tax base for our infrastructure, it’s about high-quality, good paying jobs. Every business in the county means a place for residents to work. Having these companies in the area allows individuals to live and work locally. More than 60,000 Clark County residents commute daily to Oregon for work. Spending more of your money locally could, someday, allow those individuals to work here.

Last year, the city of Vancouver issued more than 700 new business licenses. Some of those licenses were for existing businesses that had changed owners, others are brand new. All of them mean jobs retained or jobs added to our area. None of these businesses will survive without revenue. For most, that means local shoppers frequenting their stores and restaurants and local residents buying their goods and services.

So, when you have the opportunity to spend your dollars locally, keep in mind it’s about more than saving or spending a few dollars, it’s about your quality of life, the community’s livability and the region’s ability to attractive new employers and residents. It’s about the jobs!

Jeanne Bennett is the executive director for the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council (SWWDC), a nonprofit organization founded in 2002. SWWDC is the Workforce Investment Board (WIB) for Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties, bringing together funding, state agencies, local service providers, colleges and community organizations to provide employment and training services to businesses, job seekers and youth.

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